Hiring in a Skills Shortage; Help for Struggling SMEs

Posted on August 16, 2021 by Tania Howard

You may have heard; unemployment is at record lows of 4%.  You probably didn’t need that official
statistic to know how hard it is to find and recruit people for your business right now.   

I’ve outlined the contributing factors – what this means for small businesses and how you can improve your chances of finding staff.

How did we get here? 

Well it’s been a bit of a perfect storm!  I’ve been saying for years that NZ would fall over if it wasn’t for immigrant labour.  Well, Covid has shown us a glimpse of that reality. 

Many international students would work 20 hours a week, often in hospitality and retail.  Those whose English communication skills weren’t great often ended up in cleaning, factory or security jobs.  Then when their studies were complete, they would receive Study to Work visas, and enter the full-time employment market. 

Those streams of people are severely reduced.  People on working holiday visas have had their times extended, but it hasn’t’ been anywhere near enough to fill the gap.  And naturally there’s (almost) no immigration. And with all the press about people losing jobs last year, it appears some people are still nervous about going to a new employer, so sitting tight.  More so those on Visa’s waiting until the impending Immigration changes become clearer. 

This exacerbated a very tight market with serious shortages, critically so in trades, in what is a rapidly growing country.

My small and medium business (SME) clients are saying, “…but we’re not in those industries”, trouble is it has had a knock-on effect.  Businesses have compromised on the calibre or skills of candidates and vacuumed up people, that would have perhaps worked in another sector. 

The positive being that some people are getting opportunities they wouldn’t have previously.

Unfortunately, most SMEs can’t train someone as they are too small, they don’t have a ‘trainer’ let alone the time (or double resources) to allow someone to get up to speed.

Whatever has happened SMEs need to know that they are disproportionately affected due to the lack of branding and sheer ‘pulling power’ of larger businesses. 

How can you hire a great candidate when they don’t even know who you are?   And when most advertising follows ‘post-war’ methods, extending a shopping list of ‘must-haves’.

So I thought I would outline some actions you can take as a SME to improve your hiring chances:

  1. Be a good employer, seems obvious but many employers still think they’re doing the employee a favour.  Employment should be a mutually beneficial arrangement.  A great employer’s employees will become their greatest advocates.
  2. Be clear on your differentiators as an ‘employer’ and know why someone would want to work for you compared to a competitor, or another company hiring the same people.
  3. Use ‘candidate centric’ ads selling the above; not shopping lists of what you want.  Reverse the traditional order and spell out early on “What’s in it for the candidate?” then don’t talk about the company until late in the ad.  You would never sell your product or service talking first about the company, so why do it when hiring? 
  4. Use social media postings to drive people to the ad, then boost these for inexpensive advertising.  Post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook Groups.  Do not start with “We’re Hiring!’, that is irrelevant in this market!
  5. Use images and video to support your postings.  Use free tools such as Canva to create images with text to make your posts eye catching; even better use a GIF if you can.  Unsplash is another site where you can source photos.
  6. Utilise free sites to post your ad such as Adzuna, Indeed, Jora, and KEA (https://www.keanewzealand.com).  MyJobSpace allows you go to nationwide without paying for multiple ads.
  7. Are there any industry specific groups or bodies where you can advertise that relate to your industry or job?  In some cases these get more views that job sites, which only attract candidates actively looking, and with 4% unemployment you need to get in front of ‘passive’ candidates; those that would jump at a great opportunity, but aren’t actively looking.
  8. Utilise the backend of Seek and TradeMe’s culling systems.  Direct social media ads to these too so it’s a lot easier to manage applications and respond to candidates.  And respond to applicants!  Even letters of decline are appreciated and protect your brand.
  9. Utilise your staff’s networks, ask them to post about the role on their social media.  It will hold more weight coming from someone already with the company.
  10. Choose your advertising medium/s based on the candidates you are attracting.  Is it a lower-level role or skilled role?  Are candidates’ computer savvy?
  11. Your process needs to match the market.  Be fast when there’s not many applicants or a known shortage.
  12. Proactively ‘search’ for people.  You can use LinkedIn or a new tool recruiters are using is Talentis.  If you posted on Seek you automatically have access to their database candidates who match the ad; it’s called Talent Search.  Send them a personal note and start a conversation.

If you’re a SME doing your own recruitment you need to give yourself a fighting chance.   If you are strategic in your approach, utilise your network, use marketing principles, and multiple advertising streams supported by social media, you’ll have much better results.

Also remain open minded about people’s abilities.  New Zealanders are one of the most travelled people on this planet, yet this doesn’t seem to equate to ‘open mindedness’ when hiring.  It’s time we dropped the ‘doesn’t have NZ experience’ excuse.  What do they have that you haven’t even considered?  There’s a chance you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ and are missing out on other valuable skills.  

The saying ‘hire on attitude not skills’ has never been truer.  The above will at least give you some candidates to work with.

Posted under: Articles, Skill Shortage, SME Hiring

3 Steps for Writing More Compelling Job Ads That Will ‘Hook’ Candidates Quickly

Posted on March 13, 2020 by Tania Howard

This is an article found on LinkedIn written by Samantha McLaren. It is along the same lines as previous articles written by Tania Howard on job adverts and well recommended.

You may be familiar with the statistic that candidates spend an average of 14 seconds looking at a job description (ad) before deciding whether to apply. That means the first few sentences of your posts are critical — because if they’re not compelling, candidates may not bother scrolling down to read the rest. 

This realization first dawned on video game developer Ubisoft Montréal, a studio of Ubisoft, when it was revamping its employer brand in 2014. The studio realized that while 40% of its inbound candidates view job posts on mobile, 85% ultimately apply on a desktop. That means there’s usually a gap between when candidates view a job and when they apply for it, so the company has to hold their attention or risk losing them.

“They go home and they think about it,” says Matthew Wiazowski, director of talent acquisition and internal mobility at Ubisoft Montréal. “We really need to make sure that we’re giving them something to think about when we’re writing our job ads.”

That’s why Ubisoft Montréal hired Angelica Novielli, a talent acquisition content specialist. She immediately got to work overhauling the studio’s job ads (the company classifies “job ads” as external-facing postings, while “job descriptions” are internal). She focused particularly on the “hooks” — those critical opening lines that influence whether a candidate will continue reading. In her first year, she wrote ads for over 60 positions and she’s identified what works and what doesn’t. 

At Talent Connect 2019, Angelica and Matthew shared some of their tips for writing engaging hooks that entice candidates to read through, revisit, and apply — and a before-and-after example of this in practice. 

Job descriptions, extreme makeover style 

Members of Ubisoft Montréal’s internal communications team were the first to start the work of improving the company’s job ads, but in order to really raise the bar, Matthew decided to bring someone on full-time.

Enter Angelica. 

She built on the comms teams’ work to make Ubisoft’s job ads more intriguing, as the company’s early ads weren’t always particularly memorable. Take the example below, which is a real job ad the company created for a lighting artist, the person responsible for creating things like rays of sunlight in video games. The role is all about making something beautiful and atmospheric, but you wouldn’t know it from the dry opening lines, which include phrases like “technological limitations” and “production deadlines.”

“It’s bland,” Angelica says. “It’s mechanical. It’s just boring and lengthy. It’s not engaging whatsoever and it’s very unclear who exactly we’re talking to here.” 

Angelica later rewrote the job ad for the role to be more compelling and inspirational. You can feel the difference in the updated version below, which opens by painting a picture of the “cohesive, vibrant, and immersive world” the new hire would create as the player’s “silent travel companion.”

“This is where your 14 seconds start,” Angelica says of the opening lines. “This is what’s meant to draw in the candidate’s attention and encourage them to keep reading.”

Here are three of the steps Angelica employed to take this job ad and many others to the next level: 

1. Speak to employees to get a better sense of what it feels like to work in the role

For Matthew, job ads should speak to people in the same way that car ads speak to consumers. Although technical specifications (think gallons per mile, horsepower, etc.) can inform people’s decisions on what model they buy, it’s the car’s advertisements that draw you in and make you feel like the car could fit your lifestyle (think of commercials with wide open roads or kids spilling out with soccer balls or ski equipment).

Simply listing all the technical details up front won’t speak to many people because that’s not what they truly care about and it’s not very interesting to read. Right off the bat, they want to know if it feels like a good fit. Only then will they invest the time to dig a little deeper. 

To help candidates get a similar feel for jobs at Ubisoft Montréal, Angelica starts by getting a feel for the roles herself. To do this, she goes straight to the source, setting up brief interviews with employees to learn more about their work.

For example, when Angelica was tasked with writing a job ad for a level artist, she met with an employee named Luca. When she asked about his goals, Luca mentioned his desire to make players feel so immersed in the world that they stop playing the game for a moment just to soak in the sights. And when she asked him what he enjoyed most about his job, Luca told her that he loved “the challenge of a white canvas, bringing something new and interesting or visually enticing from nothing, from zero.”


Related: 4 Tips for Writing Better Job Posts (Plus Before and After Examples)


Inspired by this conversation, Angelica gave herself 10 minutes to craft a hook for the job ad. She wrote: “As a Level Artist at Ubisoft Montréal, you’ll create something beautiful out of nothing, transforming a blank canvas into a believable world filled with awe-inspiring environments for players to uncover — and lose themselves in.”

“I really took what he said and just put it right in there,” Angelica says. “Really gathering the right information from the person who’s doing the role just helps [the job ad] to write itself.”

By speaking to employees before you start writing, you can craft hooks that let candidates know what it actually feels like to work in the role on a daily basis. This invaluable insight allows you to elevate your job posts from a dry description to something much more evocative and impactful. 

“We put the candidate at the heart of our job ads,” Angelica says, “so that they can really imagine themselves in the role.”

2. Quickly answer the question “What’s in it for me?” (Hint: The answer doesn’t revolve around perks) 

For Matthew, the single most important change that Ubisoft Montréal made to its job ads was to answer the question “What’s in it for me?” in the first few lines. 

That doesn’t mean they talked about the salary or benefits package, though. Instead, they focused on what makes the work meaningful. “What’s in it for me isn’t about perks,” Matthew stresses. “People spend 40 hours a week or more at their job. They love it. They’re passionate about it. For some people, it defines who they are. And so the perks are really the sprinkles on your sundae.”


The sundae itself is the thing that makes employees’ eyes light up when they talk about their job. This is something Angelica pays close attention to when she’s speaking to employees. 

“What’s the heart of their work?” she says. “Why do they enjoy what they’re doing? Why do they do it?” 

In the case of the level artist job ad, Angelica knew from talking to Luca that the creative possibilities of the role would speak to candidates the most — so that’s what she emphasized. 

She also used a lot of “you” pronouns. In the past, the studio tended to talk about jobs in a detached and impersonal way, describing what “the level artist” or “the lighting specialist” would do. Now, Ubisoft Montréal describes what you, the candidate, would do in the role — so readers are left in no doubt about what they’d personally get out of it. 

“Address candidates directly, be clear, and be sincere,” Angelica says. “Here’s what you’ll do, what your contribution is going to be, what your impact is. We’re answering that right away.”

3. Use more feminine-inclusive language because it encourages more women to apply without deterring men

The video game industry has a reputation for being male-dominated, particularly in technical roles. Unfortunately, job descriptions often play a role in perpetuating that. When they contain masculine-coded words that signal to women that they wouldn’t belong, they can discourage women from applying. And if that off-putting language appears in the opening lines, it doesn’t matter how inclusive the rest of the post is, as many readers may have already clicked away.

On the flip side, feminine-coded words such as “collaborative” and “supportive” have been shown to increase the number of women who apply — without deterring men from applying. This research inspired Ubisoft Montréal to rethink its approach to language. 

“To avoid missing out on talent based on something that we wrote in a job ad or how it was perceived,” Angelica says, “we really put a focus on using feminine-inclusive language.”

This change is reflected in the lighting artist job ad, which went from talking about deadlines and technical limitations to describing the collaborative relationship between the artist and the player. The new ad also highlights the emotional aspects of the role, like stirring players’ emotions and letting them experience “the moods and ambiances you’ve created.”

Combined with other studio initiatives, this simple change helped Ubisoft Montréal take a step towards positive change. In 2014, the percentage of women hired in tech positions at the studio was 5.5%. And while there’s still a way to go, Ubisoft Montréal has made measurable progress: The percentage of women hired in tech positions in 2018 was 16.9%. 

By following these three steps, the opening lines of your job ads can serve as a silent but powerful call to action for your candidates — encouraging them to read the rest of the post, learn more about your company, and apply for the job. 

You can check how gender-inclusive your job ads are by using this free Gender Decoder tool. Just paste your description into the box and the tool will flag any masculine-coded words that may put women off, allowing you to swap it out for a neutral or female-coded synonym that may leave candidates with a better impression.

“Job ads really have the potential to make a positive impression,” Matthew says. “Or even change [the candidate’s] impression of your company. 

Final thoughts: Your job post’s hook should be an invitation to embark on a journey

“Your employee journey starts with the candidate journey,” Matthew says. “Job ads are your gateway to your employer brand — and you should really approach it that way.”

Posted under: Uncategorized

Write a kick-ass recruitment ad that will attract great candidates

Posted on April 8, 2014 by Tania Howard

If I see the words ‘We’re hiring!’ in an ad one more time I’ll scream.  One of my pet peeves is most recruiter’s inability to write a half decent recruitment advertisement.  What chance does a business have of attracting people when they copy this well-worn (out) format?  

In this article I’ll rebuff the ads most recruiters, and unfortunately, companies still write, explain why most ads need to change and clarify the elements of a good ad.

If you’re hiring you need the right number of quality candidates.  A badly written ad can attract either not enough or too many.  Both situations have consequences but a good ad creates a positive flow on effect right through the recruitment process, which means hiring is a lot easier. 

So what makes a great ad? For a start, to attract great people your ad needs to differentiate your business as an employer.  

To set the scene let’s put our marketing hat on.   For reasons unknown people forget that when they’re hiring they are actually marketing their company as an employer.   And they are competing for skills against everyone else seeking those same skills.  

With an aging workforce skill shortages exist and the same-old tired format isn’t going to cut it if you want to stand out.  I recently had a client seeking a Business Analyst, at the time there were 477 ads for a Business Analyst on Seek in Auckland alone and less than 250 Auckland BAs with LinkedIn profiles. Now a lot of those ads would have been duplicated however the client really had to differentiate themselves to get noticed. So what’s so wrong with the traditional recruitment ad? Besides providing a shopping list of what the company wants and nothing of benefit to the candidate most start with talking about the company. They are very much written from the company’s perspective, not the candidate’s and don’t connect with potential applicants using everyday language.  ‘We’re hiring’ smacks of this.  There is minimal information about why a person would really want the role and the benefits and differentiators of the role and company. 

Traditional advertising follows the AIDA approach; the theory being to get, in this order, Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.  This is still relevant but simplistic and doesn’t include other factors that are required to make a stand-out job advertisement.

Even if you’re advertising for a role where there are lots of candidates you still need to make sure the right ones are applying.  Going through hundreds of unsuitable candidates isn’t fun or an effective use of time for anyone. There will always be ‘serial applicants’ and an applicant tracking system will save you time and energy but a good ad will explain why a certain skill is necessary so people without it are discouraged from applying.

So here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider when writing a recruitment ad:



Good marketing practices consider the audience, talk about what’s in it for them, and have a call to action.  Recruitment marketing is no different and a great ad provides a flavour of what you’re about as a company, ironically without talking much about you!

A well-written ad can save you time and energy during the recruitment process by attracting more of the right people. If you’re still writing ads with no differentiator stating ‘we want’ then expect to get less and less applicants.

Need some coaching to get your ads right, or have an ad written for you… give Talent Seed a call.

Posted under: Articles, SME Hiring

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